2005_09_food_royals.jpgGothamist can recall a time before Smith Street's hip eateries - a time when Carroll Gardens was home to a myriad of "red gravy" dining establishments, with nary a stylish Thai restaurant in sight. Happily, some of the nabe's old world Italian mainstays remain, but changes are still afoot.

Case in point: the corner of Union and Henry Streets, home to the decidedly traditional Nino's Pizzeria and the classic Italian-American Mazzola Bakery.

Not long ago, the corner also used to be home to a lovingly jam-packed Italiano deli, Amici, which produced awesome sandwiches and offered a staggering array of foodstuffs from the old country. Today, the storefront is being converted into a bagel cafe.

And, a while back, there used to be a family-style Nino's restaurant, adjacent to the namesake pizzeria. The pizza place survives, but following the restaurant's demise, several other spots tried to take over the location - with little luck. Today, the space is occupied by Royal's Downtown, a newly opened, upscale New American dining establishment, which boasts a kitchen helmed by Chef Alex McWilliams, a veteran of Zoë and Craft in Manhattan.

These two new spots might be wonderful. But, Gothamist is grateful that some of the old-timers are still hanging on too. And, we're just as grateful that these new Carroll Garden neighbors are privately-owned. Goes to show that change isn't always a bad thing.

That said, we're pretty sure that restaurant chains will eventually make their way into the area - but it's a pretty safe bet that you can fuggedabout a Carroll Garden's branch of the Olive Garden.